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 HISTORY OF ST.JOsEpH'S

Karachi, 1862: Five sisters in voluminous black habits survey the land on which they are to set up their mission. The population consisted of 60,000, and was concentrated mainly in the cantonment and the city, so they thought this expansive plot of land was the ideal place to set up a school. What started out as a white stone church, which was often crowded to the doors, has now grown into extensive buildings of golden sandstone and lush greenery.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It was the year 1861, Monsignor Steins, Vicar Apostolic of Mumbai, passed through the city of Liege, Belgium, on his way to Rome. He called on Mother Marie Theresa, Superior General and foundress of the Daughters of the Cross, and asked for several of her Sisters to work in the Indian Mission field. The Congregation had been founded less than thirty years previously, and its Constitutions had received the approval of Pope Pius IX in 1851. Mother Marie Theresa asked for time in which to pray and reflect before making so momentous a decision. The co-founder of the Congregation, Canon Habets, advised acceptance, and immediately the Sisters offered themselves for the difficult mission. 

  On January 27th 1862 the journey began. Five Sisters set off by train for Trieste, the port of embarkation. The voyage was uneventful, and on 16th February, the Sisters arrived in Mumbai, where they received a hearty welcome from the good Bishop Steins. There in Mumbai, the Sisters heard for the first time that the Bishop wanted them to undertake work in Karachi, then three days by sea from Mumbai, and that he would travel along with them very shortly.
 

Thus on March 13th 1862, the five Daughters of the Cross first set foot on the soil of Sind, and immediately began their apostolate to the people of Karachi. 
 

In 1862, Karachi was a city of about 60 000 inhabitants, but already counted about 5000 Catholics. The Sisters dedicated themselves to working for the salvation of souls in this corner of the Lord 's Vineyard. We give a contemporary account of the Sisters' arrival:
"They were received in Karachi by the Reverend Fathers, with all attention and charity. The inhabitants assembled for the occasion and showed every mark of respect and satisfaction, mingled with curiosity, which was quite natural in a place where they had never before seen Sisters."

His Lordship the Bishop himself led the Sisters to the house made ready for them by the good Fathers, who had deprived themselves of necessaries for the sake of the Sisters"

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On March 18th, school began with ten pupils, "one of whom could write with ink": Slowly the number of pupils increased, and December saw the first distribution of prizes. The first Government grant-in-aid was received in June 1863, Rs. 50 per month. A new building was begun in the same year, and inside the foundation stone was placed an elaborate inscription. It expressed the fervent hope that the building raised above it "might be the home whence true piety, good morals and sound learning may be diffused throughout this town and the Province of Sind".

December 1863 saw the arrival of a second batch of Sisters, among them Sister Clarissa who was to spend herself in Karachi for over thirty years and whose remains rest in the local cemetery. Another notable pioneer was Sister Lousia, the only English Sister of the group and a convert from Protestantism.
 
 
The story of St. Joseph's school begins with the Hall. Before any other building existed on the premises, its original structure housed a chapel for the military. It was only in 1862 that a girl's school was established and in 1863 the Main School Building was commissioned for Rs. 7000.

New additions were made in 1868 when plans were approved for the construction of the upper floor for the Boarders. Many other wings were added to the Main Building with the purpose of providing larger or more kitchens and store rooms, and dining rooms and dormitories for the Boarders. This process continued till 1909 when the final one housing, the Art room was constructed. A swimming pool, called the Swimming Bath that was constructed in 1914 was later filled in when the Lourdes House was built over it in the late 50ís, as there was a great influx of students after Independence and the school needed expansion. The Loretto House (mainly a conversion and reconstruction of Godowns and Storerooms) and Clinic   (now the School infirmary, or popularly known as the "sick room") was built in the 60's and the Marie Therese House and Primary School building in the 70's.

  In 1869 an upper storey was added to the Convent, providing accommodation for boarders, and from January 1871, the institution was known as St. Joseph 's Convent. Many further additions were made to the buildings over the years, down to 1951, when the College for women was built. 

In 1875, Sisters and boarders for the first time spent their holidays at Clifton. In 1880, the Convent was honored by a visit from the Catholic Viceroy, Lord Ripon. After the building of the new St. Patrick 's Church, the convent acquired the use of the old Church, which was rebuilt into the present Hall, with a built-in stage. 

The year 1901 saw the building of the present building of the Convent Chapel, with classrooms below. Sad to relate, the roof of this new building was torn off six months later in a violent cyclone, which swept over Karachi.

In 1911, St. Patrick 's and St. Joseph 's kept their Golden Jubilee with a combined P.T. display, and the production of a drama, William Tell, in the G.P. Hall.

During 1911, five pupils, Ethel Raymond, Annie Rodrigues, Eugene Nunes, Mary Lastellino and Mary D'Souza appeared for the Matriculation Examination, and all passed. Ethel Raymond, afterwards Sister Vincent Mary, F.C. , passed second in Sind and won a scholarship.

And so the modest chronicle continues, covering the harrowing years of the First World War, the epidemic of influenza of 1918, the creation of Pakistan. Mention must be made of the services rendered by the Sisters to the plague-stricken, when this fell disease came to Karachi in 1896.

With the creation of Pakistan, a new challenge was thrown to the Sisters. People from India streamed into the city, and every new citizen went in search of a school for their displaced children. All schools responded generously, and stretched their capacity to the utmost. Today the school has about 2000 pupils on its rolls, with many lay teachers on the staff. The local Sisters of the Congregation on the apostolate of education as devotedly and efficiently as their foreign predecessors of old. The school enjoys a good reputation and is much in demand among the citizens of Karachi. In 1958 the swimming pool was closed and transformed into Lourdes House providing new classrooms for the ever growing school population. 

In 1965, a part of the garden was transformed into the present Primary Block, still in the process of stretching upwards to meet the incessant demand for admission to St. Joseph 's Convent School. 

  Theoretically this structure could endure wind and weather for thousands of years, but the steady rise in the water table poses a grave problem for the schools future. If immediate solutions are not provided, the saturated sandstone walls will take little time to disintegrate. The only solution seems to be the injection of chemicals, which provide an impervious barrier to the rise of moisture by capillary action.

  The grand old School building is not only a proud possession of the Convent and its students, but is an extremely important landmark in the history of Karachi. It could stand and bear its trials bravely until the sands of time are run... if only some kind guiding hands would make its hardships light.

 

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